Have you been charged with driving under the influence, or DUI, in Oakland or elsewhere in the Bay Area? If so, you need to know about the possible California DUI penalties that could lie ahead. They could include fines, costs, suspension of your driver’s license, and even incarceration. And those are just the direct consequences.

When you face a DUI charge, you also have to think about your future. Things can snowball. With one or more DUI convictions on your record, you could find trouble getting a job. And if you can’t pay your bills — not to mention your DUI fines and costs — it could end up affecting your credit, too. See what can happen?

To help ease your stress, you should seek help from an experienced DUI defense attorney at Lamano Law Office as early as possible. We can help you to understand the possible DUI penalties in your case and the steps we can take to try to reduce or avoid those penalties altogether. Contact us today to learn more.

What Is a DUI in California?

Under the California Vehicle Code, you can be charged with a DUI if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) allegedly exceeds the legal limit. That limit can vary:

  • Vehicle Code 23152(b): The limit is .08 percent if you are age 21 or older, with a regular driver’s license, and no restrictions on your driving privileges.
  • Vehicle Code 23152(d): The limit is .04 percent if you have a commercial driver’s license (CDL), regardless of what car you are driving at the time of the arrest.
  • Vehicle Code 23136(a): The limit is .01 percent if you are under age 21, which is why it is called a Zero Tolerance law.

However, under Vehicle Code 23152(a), a police officer does not need a chemical test result to arrest you for a DUI. Instead, the officer can merely allege that you were driving under the influence of an alcoholic beverage. For instance, an officer may claim that they saw careless or illegal driving, smelled alcohol on a driver’s breath, or heard slurred speech.

You can also face a DUI charge under Vehicle Code 23152(f) based on an allegation that you were under the influence of drugs while driving, regardless of whether it was a recreational substance, over-the-counter medicine, or prescription drug.

Can I Lose My Driver’s License for a California DUI?

You encounter two major issues when you are charged with DUI in California. First, you could face an administrative suspension of your driver’s license by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Second, you could lose your driving privileges as a consequence of a criminal conviction. Let’s focus on the first one. It’s important.

Within 10 days of your arrest, you must contact the DMV and request a hearing to contest the suspension of your license, or else your suspension will stay in effect. If you meet the deadline, you can keep your driving privileges intact until the date of your DMV hearing. If you need help with making the request for a hearing, you should get in touch with an experienced DUI attorney in the Bay Area as soon as possible.

At a DMV hearing, a lawyer can represent you, examine witnesses, and present evidence on your behalf. Even if your suspension is not dismissed, a lawyer may still be able to obtain a restricted license that will allow you to still drive to work, school, or any treatment programs you must attend.

What Are Penalties for a California DUI Conviction?

In most situations, a DUI in California is punished as a misdemeanor offense. However, if aggravating factors exist, the charge can be elevated to a felony DUI, and the severity of potential punishment will greatly increase. The consequences of a first, second, and third misdemeanor DUI conviction include:

  • First Conviction — Fine of $390 to $1,000, 48 hours to 6 months in jail, and 3 to 5 years of probation that includes 3 months of DUI school (9 months if your BAC was .20 or higher). In addition to a 4-month administrative suspension of your driver’s license, you could face a 6-month driver’s license suspension if convicted. You can apply for a restricted license. A court may order you to have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed for up to 6 months after your license is reinstated.
  • Second Conviction — Fine of $390 to $1,000, 96 hours to 1 year in jail (possibly served on house arrest or as a part of a work program), 3 to 5 years of probation, with 18 or 30 months of DUI school. An administrative license suspension could be 12 months. A conviction could also result in a 2-year license suspension (or 1-year mandatory IID period).
  • Third Conviction — Fine of $390 to $1,000, from 180 days to 1 year in jail, 3 to 5 years of probation (with the court possibly requiring 30 months of DUI school). A 12-month administrative license suspension could result, and a 3-year suspension as a result of the criminal conviction (or 2 years with an IID installed).

When certain aggravating factors exist, a DUI may be charged as a felony in California. A prosecutor has discretion on how to bring a charge. A DUI can be a felony if you:

  • Cause serious bodily injury or death
  • Have three or more prior DUI or “wet reckless convictions” within the 10-year period
  • Have at least one prior felony DUI conviction

If a prosecutor charges an injury DUI as a felony, the penalties could include a term in prison — not county jail — of 16 months to 4 years and a fine up to $5,000. If the DUI causes death, the severity of the possible charges and penalties greatly increase. The charges could range from negligent vehicular manslaughter to second-degree murder — an offense that carries a minimum 15-year prison sentence.

A felony DUI based on a fourth DUI within 10 years or a second felony DUI conviction can result in a prison sentence of 16 months to 4 years, and fines up to $1,000.

Can California DUI Penalties Be Avoided or Reduced?

Even though you have been charged with a DUI, you can fight the charge with the help of an experienced DUI attorney. Don’t lose hope. An attorney may be able to get a charge dismissed if the charge resulted from an unlawful stop and detention, problems arose with the administration of chemical tests, or other evidence fails to support that you were “under the influence” at the time of arrest.

A lawyer may also negotiate to get a DUI charge dropped in exchange for a guilty plea to reckless driving, or what is commonly called a “wet reckless,” or to get a felony DUI to charge reduced to a misdemeanor. If you are convicted of a DUI, the lawyer can seek alternatives to jail such as participation in the Sheriff Work Alternative Program.

Our Oakland DUI Lawyers Want to Help You

Knowing an experienced and dedicated DUI defense attorney is on your side can give you peace of mind after you have been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in California. At Lamano Law Office, we will protect your rights and work tirelessly to seek the best possible outcome for you. Contact us today to get started on your defense.